Advanced Manufacturing Center now open

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By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

Approximately 200 people gathered at the East Broad Campus of Gadsden State Community College Wednesday, June 12, for a highly anticipated event — a ribbon cutting for the new Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center.

“Seeing all of your faces makes me realize the great support we receive from the communities we serve,” said Dr. Kathy Murphy, president of Gadsden State. “This center is one that you support, and because of your support, lives are going to change for good, forever.”

The center will provide a high-tech, hands-on learning environment for students seeking careers in high-demand, high-wage industries. It will house mechatronics, industrial automation, precision machining, mechanical design technology, additive manufacturing and electronics engineering.

“It gives students an opportunity to learn skills for a career that is highly in demand,” Murphy said. “It’ll be high wage and most all of these programs are highly technical programs. The really cool thing is students are going to be trained by highly skilled instructors on state-of-the-art equipment. This is the same equipment being used out in the industry and our students get to be trained on that equipment in real time.”

The facility will also be the home to a second cohort of FAME students, an apprenticeship-style program for industrial automation majors.

Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker recognized Murphy and Alan Smith, dean of workforce development, for their commitment to making the center a reality.

“They made the right decisions and worked really hard to make all of this happen,” Baker said. “They worked with their local officials, with industry, with municipalities to make sure this center was built at Gadsden State. They are committed to this college.”

The Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center, most often referred to as the Advanced Manufacturing Center or AMC, was identified as a needed project through the ACCS ASPIRE 2030 initiative. ASPIRE stands for “Achieving Systemwide Potential through Increased Resources and Engagement” and is a result of a statewide bond issue passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2020 to provide funding for facility upgrades and new construction for all levels of education in Alabama. The decision to focus on the center was determined by committees comprised of Gadsden State employees as well as partners in K-12 schools, government, business and industry, nonprofits and economic development organizations.

“When we were considering ASPIRE projects, we were told to ‘dream big,’” Smith said. “I want to say that we listened.”

Gadsden State broke ground for the facility on Feb. 21, 2023. The construction of the center cost approximately $24 million with funding coming from a statewide bond issue passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2020 to provide funding for facility upgrades and new construction for all levels of education.

The AMC features 10 laboratories, seven classrooms, 11 offices, a multipurpose room, 10 tool and storage rooms, a storm shelter, a testing suite, a kitchen and serving area, a breakroom and six restroom areas. It also features glass viewing areas that allow prospective students and industry partners to have laboratory visibility during tours; a safe entrance for students loading and unloading from cars or buses; and digital displays with information for students.

Last June, Gadsden State was granted an additional $12 million in the Education Supplemental Appropriation Bill approved by Alabama legislators and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. The money was used for construction costs and equipment for the center.

Other entities also made financial commitments, including the Etowah County Commission, City of Attalla, City of Glencoe, City of Southside, City of Ridgeville, Rainbow City, Etowah County Schools, Sardis City, the Etowah Chamber of Commerce, Etowah County Sales Tax and the City of Gadsden.

“Everybody bought into the idea of having this building at Gadsden State,” Smith said. “Everyone was on board and supported the vision that helps us change lives for good, forever. That’s what we do at Gadsden State.”

The AMC is not just beneficial for future students. According to Alabama State Senator Andrew Jones companies will see the center and be more likely to choose Gadsden or Etowah County for a future facility.

“If we’re trying to recruit industry we can say ‘hey, come here’,” Jones said. “We can say ‘We have Gadsden State. We can train your workforce.’ It is a pipeline to industrial growth and that just helps the economy.”

Jones also said that not just Etowah County would benefit from the center.

“I’m excited about the impacts this is going to have on the region because this is going to be a workforce training hub for surrounding counties as well,” Jones said. “People are going to come here and get trained for a career that can provide them with a high paying job.”

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